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Teresa Lingafelter

LIFE STORIES

XX – May 10,2020

Teresa was physically small, but she had a big presence. I think anyone who knew her would agree with that. She was razor sharp intellectually, and for that reason she could be testy sometimes, even gruff. In all the years I knew her, I can’t remember Teresa ever letting an idiotic statement stand without rebuttal. If you were the one spouting the idiocy, it could sting. But then, an instant after she slayed your foolish dragon, she would open up with a laugh, a silly joke, a sweetness and a vulnerability that was disarming and warming. She was a good friend.

Teresa was always youthful, with her wide, devilish smile, her forceful point of view, her robust struggles and great delights. But in other ways she seemed older than her years. When I first met her and her husband Bob, along with the band of miscreants who formed a community development cadre at the University of Washington we called Ithaca (yes, after Ithaca of the Odyssey), she was much more mature than me. I skated on the surface; Teresa was deep. She set me straight on many occasions, and I loved her for it. After the UW, Teresa and I lived through various cycles, including working together during an intense period in the seventies when we put our minds to the big idea of social change. After Bob died in 1996, there was a new dimension to our relationship—the humbling fact of our fragility.

If we’re lucky, there are people who come along in life and completely upend the way we think and live. Teresa was like that for me, as was Bob. The Lingafelters barreled into the world, working in some of the most crisis-stricken parts of the nation and the globe, and shook progress from the trees. They were talented and committed, and after Bob died, Teresa proved that she was a genius in urban planning. All those footprints of change. It was something to watch.

Down through the decades, separated by place, circumstances and divergent careers, our little Ithaca group survived as a touchstone of our lives, separate and common. We started getting together occasionally a while ago—kind of a “what’s up?” retreat. More recently we’ve met every two years for a few days at a wonderful house on Whidbey Island in Washington State. I describe these gatherings to friends as college reunions, but they’re not exactly that—more about the future than about memories. We talk about the issues of the day, the change we can make in our disparate corners, and what it will look like to grow old together. That’s what grieves me most—the idea that I won’t grow old with Teresa.

We were looking ahead to our next gathering when Covid struck. My last view of Teresa was on March 21, smiling out of her Zoom box on our first group get-together. She didn’t make it to the second. A brain tumor, hidden from view, its effects masked by the strains of the circumstances surrounding Covid, sneaked up on her while everyone’s attention was focused elsewhere. She didn’t survive the ordeal.

The loss is unspeakable, but in poetry Teresa’s steady voice speaks to me. I can close my eyes and hear Teresa reciting lines from a poem by DH Lawrence, an old favorite called We are Transmitters:
Give, and it shall be given unto you
is still the truth about life.
But giving life is not so easy.
It doesn’t mean handing it out to some mean fool, or letting the living dead eat you up.
It means kindling the life-quality where it was not,
even if it’s only in the whiteness of a washed pocket-handkerchief.

Go in peace, Teresa.

          ~~. Catherine Whitney

REMEMBERING TERESA

 

 

This is a shock. When the young ones go before us we tremble a bit in our attempts to grieve. Teresa worked for a few years for us in the FOOD FOR ALL nonprofit Linda and I founded. We helped Teresa and Bob relocate in Redlands, California and Teresa was Director of Grant Programs for us and brought her professional and uncompromising skills to the job. I was the recipient of her no nonsense manner on at least one occasion. We were shocked when Bob died so young and are shocked to learn of Teresa’s going during this Covid-19 thing. Thank you Catherine for the moving tribute to your friend. Grace and Peace. Milan and Linda Hamilton

Catherine – thank you for writing such a wonderful remembrance of Teresa.

I remember how delighted Warren and I were when we first met all you “youngsters” of the Ithaca House cadre.  Those were certainly special days! (must have been 1969 or ’70)….  Such high energy and dedication to leaving the world a better place. I never hear a Santana song without thinking of those times.

It was such a shock to hear of Bob’s death so many years ago at such a young age – and now, Teresa – still way too young.

I am so sorry for your loss of such dear friends.  I am hoping that you will be able to have another reunion on Whidbey Island soon to celebrate the special gift to the Universe that was Teresa.

With love, sadness and gratitude,

Geri Tolman

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